The Speedy Guide to Make-Ahead Oatmeal

No time to stand over a pot making a hearty oatmeal breakfast? Skip the instant packets—these four easy techniques let you prep ahead and enjoy delicious oats with minimal fuss during the morning rush.

OVERNIGHT OATS: Breakfast on the Go
Overnight oats are simply old fashioned, rolled oats that have “soaked up” any sort of liquid—usually yogurt, milk, or non-dairy milk—therefore eliminating the need to cook. This cross between a yogurt bowl, smoothie, and oatmeal is great for grabbing on your way out the door, because it’s best eaten chilled or at room temperature. No microwave required.

The Recipe: For a single serving, Katherine Younger of suggests placing ½ cup rolled oats and about 1 cup liquid (the general favorite is a mixture of yogurt and milk) in a jar, bowl, or container. Add in optional mix-ins like chopped fruit, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and honey and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, your oats will be thick, chewy, and ready to eat. Top with more milk, fruit, and toppings as desired.


SLOW COOKER OATS: “Instant” Hot Breakfast
For a hot bowlful of oatmeal that’s ready when you wake up, fire up your rice cooker or slow cooker at bedtime.

The Recipe: Place all of your oatmeal fixings—steel cut oats, the recommended ratio of water or milk, fruit, sweetener, and any other mix-ins—in your cooker. Emily Malone of recommends using the porridge setting on a rice cooker and using a timer, so the dish will finish cooking when you want to eat. For a slow cooker, turn it on just before going to bed—seven to eight hours is the max, says Lynn Andriani of Rise and dine.


BIG-BATCH OATMEAL: No-Brainer Breakfast
Oatmeal doesn’t have to be freshly made that day to be creamy and delicious—a pot will keep remarkably well in the fridge over the course of three to four days.

The Recipe: To make four servings, place 1 cup steel cut oats (or 2 cups rolled oats) in pot, along with 4 cups water or milk and a pinch of salt. Follow package directions and cook until oats are almost soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, then add in thinly sliced banana, frozen berries, honey, or vanilla extract, as desired. Add a splash more water so oatmeal is slightly more wet than normal; remove from heat and let cool. Place in containers and refrigerate for up to four days, or freeze individual sized servings. Each morning, simply scoop out your desired serving into a bowl and microwave, adding a splash of water or milk if needed.


BAKED OATMEAL: Brunch with Friends
Prep a pie pan of baked oatmeal the night before, and all you have to do is slide it in the oven for 30 minutes in the morning. The fancy presentation and light, fluffy texture that’s reminiscent of bread pudding make it perfect for casual entertaining.

The Recipe: Make your everyday oat and fruit mixture, then spoon into a buttered pie pan or casserole dish. One trick is to add a dash of baking powder and an egg to give it more of an airy texture. For more inspiration, try this recipe from Heidi Swanson, of 101 Cookbooks. You can adapt by using blueberries, and can get it ready the night before for easier morning baking.

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12 thoughts on “The Speedy Guide to Make-Ahead Oatmeal

  1. I like steel-cut oats for oatmeal; they take a just couple of minutes on the stove top.

    I like rolled-oats even more. Now, everywhere I look on-line says rolled oats take about five minutes to cook. I don’t know where
    they’re getting their rolled oats, but there is no way this works for
    what I have, and as far as I know, what I have is normal. Mine take a whole hour at a very low flame if I don’t want them uncooked and burned at the bottom. If I start with a cup of 1% milk and a half cup rolled oats, I end up adding two more cups (I add water at this point), a cup at a time to get the oatmeal soft and creamy.

  2. A half  cup  of   oatmeal,  a  cut  up  apple or  pear,  a  bit  of  cinnamon,  what  we  call a  4  count of  water (yes  very  scientific) and  into  the   micro  for  4  minutes.  Sometimes  use other fruits  like  strawberries or  blueberries  if  we  have  them on  hand.  Quick  and  delicious

  3. I eat oatmeal about every other morning.  My simple recipe is fast and never misses.  I place 1/2 cup of Minute Oats into a glass bowl and add 1 cup of water and two rounded spoons (to taste) of Splenda brown sugar.  Mix and cook for 1:45 minutes in a 1200 watt microwave.  Watch the first time to fine tune your cooking time and to avoid bubbling over.  I do not cover the bowl before cooking.  After the oatmeal reaches the top of the bowl I know it’s ready and I add a dab of margarine and skim milk…stir and eat.  It can also be made in advance by placing 1/2 cup of oats and the brown sugar into sandwich bags and sealing the bag until it’s time to use.  Dump the bag into a bowl and add one cup of water, stir and nuke.  Great breakfast! 

    1. Oops, I need to clarify a couple of things…the bowl is a glass, microwave-safe bowl that holds about 1 quart…a large cereal bowl.  The time setting on the microwave (1200 watt) that I use is one minute, 45 seconds.  I also add a dozen or so raisins from time to time before heating.

  4. I do the overnight oats with vanilla soy milk or almond milk and add dried cranberries, cherries or raisins. I usually make 4-6 servings at atime as they keep well in the fridge. I like mine slightly warmed with cinnamon but my husband likes his cold. Sometimes I add fresh fruit like berries. Keeps me doing the right thing because its ready when I want it.

  5. Even easier: 

    Put 1/3 cup Old Fashioned Oats in a microwaveable cereal bowl. Just barely cover the oats with water. Microwave for 3 minutes at 60% power. It leaves the oats slightly chewy which I like. If you like your oatmeal as mush (ick!) just cook it a little longer. No need for long cooking of any kind.

  6. Even easier: 

    Put 1/3 cup Old Fashioned Oats in a microwaveable cereal bowl. Just barely cover the oats with water. Microwave for 3 minutes at 60% power. It leaves the oats slightly chewy which I like. If you like your oatmeal as mush (ick!) just cook it a little longer. No need for long cooking of any kind.

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